I have praised iRacing quite a lot in the past few weeks after the announcement that dirt racing will be added to the service. Not only that, I think rallycross is a great idea and will also be a lot of fun. At times I’ve also been very critical of iRacing, mainly concerning the stewardship and physics issues. I’ll continue to praise iRacing regarding the addition of dirt racing, but there are at least three potential disappointments in this Q&A with Tony Gardner. It appears that iRacing is perfectly willing to cut corners when it comes to the development of simulated dirt racing. I’m just going to hit the highlights here because a lot of ground in this has already been covered.
Q: Will moisture be a factor in the calculation when it comes to the tackiness of dirt? Will loose dirt move up the track to form a cushion?
A: Moisture will be a part of the formula for dirt and the tracks will dynamically change as you progress in the race. The moisture in the dirt is also dynamically impacted by the weather at the track.
Also, yes, the dirt will move around the track and grooves or ruts will form. In fact, if you get down to the deadpan layer, rubber could even start to build up. A cushion will form if that is what the racing dictates. There will be a soft, loose layer of dirt on top and beneath that, the hard dead-pan layer as I mentioned. Each track could be different in terms of the loose layer’s depth and composition, the hard layer, etc. Graphically or visually we are also are trying to match the physics with the dirt moving and building up.
Q: Will moisture be part of the track’s starting state?
A: Yes. The weather will impact the moisture content just as it does the asphalt track surface currently. Yes, we could start every race with a different dirt state so each race could be different; but just the weather alone — if that is different – will change things in regard to racing.
The state of the dirt could change because of multiple factors such as moisture, or we could have track conditions be “slightly-used,” “used” or “all torn-up” with ruts as sometimes happens in the real world with heat races going off one after another, for example.
Frankly, that is one of several questions we are currently giving a lot of thought. The good news is we have that advantage over the real world: We don’t have to start a race in a torn-up state. We can start with the track in perfect condition for racing every time . . . or not. I’m sure in hosted or league racing for example, the league admin will have that choice. We have not discussed that in any detail for our official series. I just know that, in talking to the engineer, it will be possible. I tend to think we will start every dirt race in a clean state for official racing.
Q: One of the things you see most at the dirt track is walls and cars getting mud. Cars gain weight as the race goes on. Is this something that will be looked at to see how it affects the racing and scenery?
A: Yes, the plan is the cars will pick-up dirt, and for the weight to impact the physics of the cars as the race moves on.
Q: Currently iRacing’s format is a single race for a server. Recently, qualifying was introduced into the system. Is there any chance that iRacing could work a way to do heat races, qualifying races, and main feature races to expand the event to be more than just one single race for an event or session? Let’s say there are 20 cars in the event, can the system be built to have 10 cars do a heat race while the other 10 drivers watch, and then do a second heat race with the other 10 drivers, and then line the feature race up by the finishing order of those heats?
A: We have a tournament feature in our hosted area that works in a similar way to heat races. However, I don’t see that included as a feature of official racing “soon.” It would be a separate and very large engineering project.
iRacing does have a tournament feature. It is total crap. What we need is a way to run practice, qualifying, heats, and features all in one session. As it stands now, I have to do a lot of configuring and multiple session creation to make this work:
- I create a session with both practice and qualifying.
- Based on the number of cars that qualified, I now have to go create sessions for other races while all the racers sit and wait 15 minutes for me to do that. I have to create a Dash for the top 6 qualifiers, and at least 2 heat race sessions. I have to configure the grid for these sessions using iRacing’s broken grid builder.
- After those races are finished, I have to go create yet another session for the main feature while everyone twiddles their thumbs, using the same broken grid builder.
Q: One concern raised by Steve Myers (iRacing VEEP) was that entry to the track from the outside made it unsafe for practice and races if someone was leaving a pit road outside of the track. This eliminates many tracks on the paved and dirt side, and also requires iRacing to break from their traditional “make it as real as possible” stance. Has any thought been put into a solution for this?
A: I don’t think most find starting from the outside fun, at least in real racing, and I have talked to many real-world racers about that. They don’t enjoy entering high speed traffic from the outside, especially when they’re not up to speed. I think it’s the same for us; it will be difficult enough without adding that into the equation. If a real-world track starts from the outside and we want to build it, our current thinking would be to either figure out a way to place pit row on the inside or simply pass on building that particular track.
Have you ever been to a local short track? The vast majority of these venues have their pit areas situated outside of the race track. There are many reasons for this. Space, safety issues, insurance cost issues, etc. The fact is, there are typically no pit stops in short track racing. I don’t know why everybody at iRacing has to think of things in terms of what NASCAR is doing. If there are no pit stops, then there really is no issue with entering the track from the outside, and there is no use for a NASCAR style pit lane. Tony’s “explanation” is starting to sound more like an excuse.
Apparently iRacing has decided that modeling these tracks in a realistic way is just too difficult. They will either reconfigure the track or skip it altogether. Aren’t we paying the big bucks for the most realistic racing simulation ever made? Come on, iRacing. Make the tracks the way they’re configured. It can’t be that hard to make pit stalls on the outside of the track. Kids who modded NASCAR Racing 2003 were creating tracks with outside pit areas years ago. We’re hardcore sim racers. We don’t want some fake, made-up pit road.
Q: Speaking of yellows, dirt racing does not count yellow flag laps, and they do not finish under yellow. Will iRacing be working on this?
A: We have some plans to adjust our automated race control for both oval dirt and dirt road/rally racing. I don’t want to get into specifics now beyond that. We also will be looking at how the contact and control incidents points work for dirt racing and likely make some adjustments from that perspective as well.
iRacing has needed adjustment to their automated race control on short tracks ever since iRacing has had short tracks, however long that’s been. Their answer so far has been to run everything just like NASCAR. Whether it’s official races or league races or hosted races, you have to suffer along with NASCAR’s rules like you’re running with some highfalutin short track or short track sanctioning body that has gotten way too big for its britches. Let’s hope we soon see an end to this once and for all, at least in hosted racing.
Q: Most series also revert back to the standings for the last lap, rather than the point when the yellow flag was waved. Is this a possibility to add as an option for hosted racing sessions, and for a series to select which format is used?
A: Most things are possible – all it takes is enough time and money! However, as I mentioned previously, I don’t want to get that specific yet about race control issues for dirt racing. Generally speaking, the large domain of automated race control is very complicated to engineer and we will do the best we can. We do have some things already planned and other things may evolve in that regard. For that matter, generally speaking, I don’t think we have to copy every little thing in race control that happens in the real world to make this fun. Don’t forget: We are our own sanctioning body.
Again, let’s hope we see an end to the NASCAR style automated race controls on short tracks, but Gardner doesn’t make it sound very likely with these answers. It sounds more like iRacing is willing to drop their hardcore realism approach the minute the dirt racing project throws them a curve. Apparently they don’t feel that it’s necessary to conduct the races in an authentic way because it’s “complicated to engineer.” It’s easier to fall back and say, “We are our own sanctioning body.” Again, it just sounds like an excuse to stick with their NASCAR-centered approach to all oval racing, despite the fact that the vast majority of real world oval racing does not. iRacing’s ad campaigns trumpet the most accurate virtual racing environment, but when confronted with the way these races work in real life, Tony Gardner makes excuses as to why they don’t need to be that realistic.
A: Eldora is being scanned this week! I know the video said it’s possible we’ll roll out dirt racing this year, but we shall see. That is certainly the goal and it is possible, but I don’t like to predict release dates, especially for something like this.
I’ll have to say this, at least Tony Gardner is being honest here. Let’s hope he’s under-promising and iRacing will over-deliver. Gardner pretty much admits that the most hardcore racing simulator will omit many elements unique to real world dirt track racing.
It’s a pretty disappointing Q&A session, but I’m still glad iRacing is working on a dirt simulator. I don’t see anybody else doing it, and every dirt simulator out there is dead. Despite these disappointing answers, there is some good stuff in here, and I’m confident that iRacing will do a good job with this despite a few glaring ommissions.